Twitter to launch search-based advertising model

Twitter bird

Twitter is to introduce an advertising model that will serve third-party advertisements in on-site search results, broadly emulating Google's approach to the wider web.

The Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital blog reports that the micro-blogging giant plans to launch its Twitter Advertising scheme in the first half of this year as part of a wider set of updates to the platform.

According to the report, adverts will be served in Twitter's familiar 140-character packets. "Ads will be tied to Twitter searches, in the same way that Google's original ads were," the blog reads. "So a search for, say, 'laptop', may generate an ad for Dell. The ads will only show up in search results, which means users who don't search for something won't see them in their regular Twitterstreams."

The advertising will be sold via agencies initially while Twitter puts a self-service website in place, and Twitter is believed to have said it will share advertising revenues with any third-party sites that agree to display the ads.

"Twitter will work with ad agencies and buyers to seed the program, but plans on moving to a self-serve model like Google's, down the road," the blog reports.

With more than 50 million tweets being sent each day, Twitter has become one of the web's hottest properties, but has largely struggled to turn that popularity into profit.

At present, advertising is limited to small text adverts appearing on the top right of users' Twitter home pages a largely ineffective model rendered even less effective by the popularity of third-party applications that access Twitter's API but use their own end-user interface.

But that too could be set to change, looking at some of the other tricks Twitter seems to have up its sleeve. Twitter engineer Alex Payne has been tweeting on the subject a fair bit lately, and suggests that Twitter itself might finally be about to address the ever-growing gap between its own offering and desktop applications like Seesmic and TweetDeck.

One of his messages read: "if you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)"

Further tweets followed up to emphasise he was talking about tools already available to developers through the Twitter API, but thus far untapped by Twitter's own client. "I just mean that our web client team is building cool stuff. It's going to inspire desktop app developers. Same data, new perspectives," he said.